Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dram: Bizarre Bazaar

Bizarrebazaar_2I have commented in the Logbook that we picked up a number of local characters in Port Said who were purported to be pilots, inspectors, etc., for our transit through the Suez Canal and that I had my suspicion that it was all part of a local "works" project. During my occasional trips up to the bridge deck, I would sometimes see one or two of them in the wheelhouse, drinking coffee and making comments to the officer on duty. I never saw more than a couple of them at a time. During lunch today while we were waiting on Great Bitter Lake, I asked Randy -- the steward/messman -- where all the other guys who had come aboard were. With the first scowl I have seen yet on his face he replied, "They are downstairs sleeping in the boatman room." Almost as an aside, he then added, "They have a bazaar. You should go take a look." I wasn't sure I understood him correctly, but subsequent conversation with my fellow passengers determined that we had all heard the same thing: The Egyptian boatmen were downstairs sleeping and holding a bazaar. Now that we just had to see!

So, after lunch we all climbed down to the main deck and found the room that is designated for the Egyptian boatmen during their time on board for the Suez transit. It is a cabin with six bunk beds, each of which was occupied by a sleeping man. Strewn all over the floor was the most bizarre collection of stuff you could imagine, including everything from miniature pyramid souvenirs to fishing tackle and shaving cream. The man closest to the door must have heard us because he jumped up immediately and invited us in to "Take a look!" It took me less than five seconds to see that there was nothing I wanted, but Charlotte jumped into the fray and gave it all a good look for about a half a minute. Back on deck we moved away from the door and broke out laughing. It seems that the boatmen have figured out that as long as they are going to sleep all day, they might as well bring a whole bunch of crap on board and see if they can sell some of it to passengers and crew who were not able to go ashore. After all, "If you can't bring Muhammad to the mountain, bring the mountain to Muhammad."

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